Why I think Free Business Cards are Not Really Free

I wrote about how to design an actuarial student business card last year. It is true that most people would be impressed if a student had his/her own business cards. Now that I've been in the "real world" for a while, I realized that almost everyone has a business card! (Well, most of the times, your company will order a box of business cards for you after the first week.)

Based on my observation thus far, most of the "actuarial world" (e.g. insurance companies, pension consulting firms) business cards are boring. You may argue that as long as your company name, your name, your phone number, email and address are there, a business card serves its purpose. Maybe you are right, having a boring business card doesn't really matter if you work in a cubicle all day and you don't really have to give out your cards that often since you don't meet new people that often.

(That's why we all love going back to our alma mater to recruit students, so that we can give out our business cards! ;)

So what I'm going to suggest below doesn't really apply to people who are already happy with their company cards or don't see a need to have their own contact cards.

Normally I carry two types of cards in my wallet. Depends on situations, if it is work-related, I give out my company cards. And if I'm making new friends, I give my personal contact cards. (You don't want to receive too many personal emails at your office email.)

Since you don't really get the control over the design of your company cards, let's talk about your personal contact cards.

When I was still in school, I used the free business cards from VistaPrint. (Oh, as you may already know, free business cards are not really free, you have to pay for the shipping and also have a line of VistaPrint ad at the back of your cards.) I really like the idea of designing cheap and good quality business cards online. I also even recommended all of my college buddies to have their own.

Hence, I've seen most of the designs from the website and this becomes the problem. (Slowly, I became a business cards critic. ;))

According to my research, VistaPrint has been gaining more than 600,000 new customers in the last quarter. I suspect the chance for two people using an identical design template are quite high. The first time you see someone else using the same design, you may think it's a coincidence. The second or the third time, you may start thinking the design which was cool and elegant were just a mere "mass production". (Hm...that reminds me of those boring PowerPoint templates that you see over and over again during the college presentations.)

It is okay to use their fixed design templates and have a line of ad at the back of the cards- only if you have a really tight budget and you are also forgiven if you are a broke college student like I was before. :) But if you have a few more dollars to spend and have a desire to have a "purple cow" (I don't really mean it literally ;))business card-- spend a few more minutes, and have your own design. You can still use their design templates as a base, but make sure you twist the size and fonts of the words or add your own graphic to add a personal touch.

You may wonder why I wrote this post and here's the story I wanted to share with you.

Last night, I was browsing books in the bookstore (what else can I do in the bookstore ;)) and a lady who stood next to see started talking to me. She was complimenting my tennis shoes!! (Well, I guess I must be wearing too casual that my tennis shoes was the coolest thing that was worth talking about. Wait, I was wearing my cool North Face fleece jacket too, and I thought that was cool. ;))

Anyway, to keep the story short, this lady was working part-time as a network marketer and she gave out her business card to me before we parted. Guess what, the first mini-second I saw the card, I already recognized it was from VistaPrint. Why? Because that was the template I used in college! And of course I flipped the card and saw the Vista Print ad.

That lady seemed to be a nice person to talk to and I wished her the biggest success of her part-time business. But in terms of leaving a good first impression to a prospective client/downline, a business card with a not-too-unique template with an ad at the back doesn't do it. It just doesn't convey credibility.

Free business cards are not necessarily free- they may cost you many good first impressions.

Here are some links of business cards with a cool factor:
Most clever business card I've been to date at flickr
Show Off Business Cards
Facebook's Business Card
Business Card for a divorce lawyer
Moo minicards
gapingvoid blogcards


Danby said...

Hey, I use vistaprint too just for this year.
That's why I paid $0.99 more to remove that freakin "vistaprint" logo off on the back of my business card.
Nothing's free...in other words.. LOL

yync said...

Hey Danby,

I remembered the business card you used to show me last year. And I noticed there's no logo on the back of your card too.

Hahaha,come on,you can well-afford to pay a little bit extra, right? Hm...when shall I start calling you Dr. Danby? :)

kenshin_i said...

I tried the moo card, thanks to your post. Since I have a flickr account, why not order the one which i can use my flickr account to create each card unique and my info on the back. Thanks for the info!!